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What's Your Story? (part 1)

We tell ourselves stories constantly. They can be small and innocuous, stories we barely remember by the end of the day – like why the cashier was particularly chatty. They can be supportive and personally meaningful – like all the reasons you’re loved and appreciated by those who love and appreciate you. They can also be stubborn and habitual – like how you never have time to exercise or how you consistently run 10 minutes late. But the most important stories we tell ourselves are quiet and run in the background, deeply seated in the undercurrent of our subconscious.

The scripts that get booted up by the subconscious are written in our history, sometimes not even by us, but by our ancestors. The grandparents who scrimped and saved through the great depression impressed habits on their kids who passed those habits on right down the line. Beliefs around money can be particularly insidious with limiting, scarcity-focused ideas of your ancestors undermining your attempts at financial freedom and wealth building. The opposite can also be true; you may have been fortunate enough to inherit healthy beliefs around money where budgeting and earning your worth feel natural and effortless.

We’re going to focus on the subconscious stories in this short series – their origins, their influence and impact, and how you can rewrite them for a more full life where everyday becomes less of a struggle and brings you closer to living as your full, authentic self.

The name for these stories are shadow stories. They exist in the shadows of our consciousness. They can be passed down through generations or they can be self-made. Most often the parts of ourselves that we have been made to believe are unlovable are the parts that we shove into the shadow. Maybe as a child you were told you talk too much, so you learned to not speak up. Or you were shamed for dressing a certain way so you stopped being so colorful and expressive. Maybe you had outbursts and were made to feel like your emotions were “too much”, that you were “too much”, or that expressing anger was unsafe. Maybe you were shamed for your sexuality, race, gender, or any number of other uncontrollable aspects of self. It doesn’t have to be a big story or big event in your life, shadow aspects can simply be a personality trait you don’t like. No matter where you felt/feel the shame, no matter what parts of yourself you feel you have to hide to be accepted, all those parts of you in the shadows are the parts that make you whole.

We all want to be whole and to be wholly loved and accepted, but until we can wholly accept ourselves, we can’t ask that of others.

So what happens to those parts we try to disown? They don’t ever leave us, they can’t. We carry them with us and they will show up, fighting in the most inappropriate ways, to be seen. When we lash out at a friend or are triggered by someone’s behavior, those are invitations to notice what’s actually being triggered within us on a deeper level. The larger the aspect that’s been shoved away, the stronger the reaction when it gets triggered -- and the stronger of an ally it will be when you reintegrate it into yourself (with the help of a licensed therapist or certified coach).

This is also true of all the people with whom you interact. Your staff, clients, colleagues, friends, and most frequently triggered (and triggering), your partner/spouse all have their own shadow stories, most of which they probably don’t even realize are affecting their choice of words, tone, or actions. We are all walking around interacting, making life changing decisions that affect our business, finances, and partnerships, with buggy scripts running in our background.

When you begin to have an awareness around the shadow aspects we all carry and how they can sneak into conversations by way of an overreaction it becomes easier to not take things personally (and to recognize your own triggers). When you recommend to a homeowner that they should paint over the dated wallpaper in the entryway and they become unyielding steadfast in their determination to keep it, there is a better approach because, though you didn’t realize when it happened, you stopped talking to your client and began talking to their shadow somewhere along the way. The shadow is not a rational conversationalist, it is reactionary and often stronger than needed, or intended.

So, how do you work to neutralize the shadow reactions of the people in your life and how do you rewrite your own stories so you can stop subconsciously sabotaging yourself? Keep an eye out for my next post. It’s all coming up in part 2.

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